Cuts, blisters, and burns are annoyingly common occurrences in our lives - but for people with diabetes, they can even be dangerous ones. Everyone knows that diabetes affects your glucose levels - but does diabetes slow wound healing too?
The short answer? Yes. Diabetes does slow wound healing.
But just how much does diabetes slow wound healing, and why?
Everyone’s battle with diabetes wound healing is different, and there are some targeted ways that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may be able to improve their bodies’ defenses. But does diabetes slow wound healing even after you throw every remedy in the book at it?
Let’s examine the natural wound healing process, so we can discover why and how diabetes does slow wound healing - and what you might be able to do to speed up the process.
What does the normal wound healing process look like?
There are four main stages of wound healing that are universal for all types of wounds. They generally follow the same pattern and timeline no matter what. Unless you have an underlying condition like diabetes, that is.
These phases are:
Just after an injury, the body’s main objective is to stop any bleeding. It does so through the process of blood clotting. As soon as you are injured, your body sends signals for platelets and inflammatory cells to go to the injury site and clump together.
The clumped platelets secrete growth factors that are vital to the next stages of healing. These growth factors include platelet derived growth factor (PDGF) and insulin growth factor (IGF). Together, they create a matrix of fibrin that acts as a plug and forms the foundation for collagen protein to be deposited later during tissue repair.
This hemostasis stage happens incredibly quickly. Your platelets will start clumping to the surface of your wound within seconds of injury, and the first fibrin will begin to form a plug at around the minute mark.
For shallow wounds, the entire phase could be over in a matter of minutes. For more severe injuries, it can last up to two days.
Once the bleeding has stopped, the next stage of the healing process focuses on removing bacteria and debris from your wound.
This is the inflammation stage.
During the inflammation stage, special types of white blood cells called mast cells and neutrophils enter the wound area. Mast cells release granules filled with histamine, which causes inflammation.
Because your vascular system is constricted during the hemostasis stage in order to form clots, this inflammation opens the pathways back up and makes it easier for your healing and building cells to arrive at the wound site.
Neutrophils are in charge of destroying bacteria. They reach peak population between 24 to 48 hours after your injury, and start to reduce by day three.
Once the neutrophils leave, specialized cells called macrophages are sent in to clear out any leftover debris, as well as dead and damaged tissues. The macrophages also secrete growth factors, so even more collagen protein is attracted to the site to facilitate tissue repair.
The inflammation stage usually lasts four to six days. During this time, you may experience some swelling, pain, and skin redness.
Once the wound is sufficiently clean, the healing enters the proliferation stage. Now, the focus is on filling and covering the wound.
In this stage, new tissue is built rapidly with the help of collagen.
Collagen uses the fibrin matrix constructed in the hemostasis stage as a scaffold for constructing granulation tissue. This tissue is thicker and rougher than your usual tissue, but is much faster to build, and provides quick protection while your wound continues to heal.
A new network of blood vessels is also constructed so that the new tissue can receive all the nutrients and oxygen it needs to be healthy. In addition, myofibroblasts start to pull the wound edges to make the wound site smaller.
The proliferation stage can last anywhere from 4 to 24 days. By this point, the wound is considered “healed over”, even though healing is still in progress.
If wounds don’t heal over without a month, they are considered chronic wounds.
The final stage of healing is the remodeling phase. Here, your new tissue slowly gains strength and flexibility, and the collagen fibers reorganize themselves to lie closer together and cross-link.
This reduces the thickness of your scar and helps make the skin sturdier.
The reorganization process of the collagen fibrils is regulated by fibroblasts, which create an enzyme that degrades your collagen matrix and allows it to realign along tension lines.
This phase, also called the maturation phase, can last anywhere from 21 days to 2 years, as scars can take a long time to heal.
The four stage healing process is incredibly complex, and there are many ways it can be interrupted by infection, moisture, poor nutrition, or diseases like diabetes. We’ve already told you that diabetes does slow down wound healing, but does diabetes slow wound healing drastically? And if so, how does diabetes slow wound healing?
Let’s look into what changes type 1 and type 2 diabetes make to your body that could be affecting the way you heal.
How does diabetes slow wound healing?
Unfortunately, through a number of ways.
When your body doesn’t produce or regulate insulin properly, you can’t reliably convert blood glucose into energy. This can result in high blood sugar levels, or hyperglycemia.
Hyperglycemia from diabetes is the main culprit for why wounds don’t heal in diabetics, because it affects many systems in your body that are required for proper wound healing.
Before we answer the question “how does diabetes slow wound healing?” in detail, it’s important to note that diabetes actually makes you more susceptible to wounds in the first place.
Hyperglycemia weakens your skin barriers, making them easier to injure. On top of that, prolonged high blood sugar levels cause neuropathy in nearly 50% of people with diabetes. This nerve damage makes it so that people with diabetes are often unaware of their wounds in the first place.
If people with diabetes are unaware of their wounds, they are more susceptible to some of the ways diabetes does slow wound healing.
Here are the main reasons why diabetes does slow wound healing in most people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes may cause poor circulation
Circulation problems are one of the reasons why wounds don’t heal in diabetics.
When you have increased glucose in your blood, it makes the blood thicker and more difficult to pump through your body. In addition, prolonged high glucose levels cause plaque buildup in the blood vessels.
This causes them to become more narrow and further impedes circulation.
Poor circulation stops oxygen and important nutrients your body needs for wound healing from reaching your extremities, making it difficult to heal wounds in your arms and legs.
Diabetes may cause impaired white blood cell functioning
When blood sugar levels remain consistently high, it causes dysfunction in your white blood cells, which are vital to your immune response. This is one of the main reasons why diabetes does slow wound healing.
High blood sugar causes glycation, where sugar molecules attach to protein molecules in your blood - when this happens, your white blood cells can’t function as they are intended to. Some of the sugars break down into dicarbonyl, which further weakens your body’s defenses.
When your white blood cells fail to function properly, you are not only less capable of healing, you are also less capable of fighting off infection.
Diabetes may cause decreased bacterial resistance
Your body is not just less capable of fighting bacteria with diabetes, it’s actually a happy place for bacteria to potentially grow.
Bacteria thrives in people with diabetes because it feeds on the extra sugars in their blood.
With the bacteria happily feeding, and your immune system struggling to respond, slow diabetes wound healing can turn dangerous. Your body cannot break out of the inflammation stage of wound healing because bacteria is still present, so your wounds cannot properly heal.
If the infection cannot be treated and continues to spread to surrounding tissues and bone, it can result in gangrene and, in very severe cases, the need for amputation.
In fact, diabetic foot ulcers are the cause of 85% of amputations in the United States.
Diabetes may cause decreased collagen production
Another reason why wounds don’t heal in diabetics is because of depleted collagen levels.
Collagen protein is necessary for the proliferation and remodeling phases of healing. Without adequate stores of collagen to draw upon, your body will likely struggle to complete the healing process.
Your collagen production naturally depletes as you age, starting around the age of 25. This is why injuries, aches, and pains take longer to resolve as you get older. Adding to that, diabetes can greatly decrease collagen deposition and production, especially in type 1 diabetes.
If you have diabetes, and particularly if you are in your 50s or older, you could be having a very difficult time with wound healing due to inadequate collagen production. Your body simply does not have the stores of collagen protein it needs to build new tissues at your wound site.
The good news is that a simply daily - or twice daily - supplement like ProT Gold is a fast, safe, and easy way to replenish your collagen stores.
But that’s just one of the ways to reverse how diabetes slows wound healing. Let’s get into the answer to another common question, “how can a diabetic wound heal faster?”
How can a diabetic wound heal faster?
Proper diabetes wound healing starts with proper prevention. You make sure to wear proper footwear, and check your body daily for signs of new wounds. Once identified, here are some tips for battling how diabetes does slow wound healing.
Use wound treatments immediately
As soon as you spot a new wound, wash your hands with soap and water. Then, rinse your wound with warm water, applying pressure to stop any bleeding. Finally, dry it off and apply diabetic wound healing products before covering with a bandage.
Keep the pressure off
Avoid putting stress or weight on your wounds to prevent further trauma to the area. You can ask your doctor about special shoes or customized foot padding to take pressure off foot ulcers.
Apply wound dressings
Keeping your wound clean and moist is essential for healing.
If antibiotic ointment and regular bandages aren’t cutting it, your doctor can recommend the best type of wound care dressing to promote healing and protect your injury from infection.
Start medical nutrition therapy
Diet can play a major role in diabetes wound healing. If you are concerned with how diabetes slows wound healing, you might want to ask your doctor about medical nutrition therapy with a supplement such as ProT Gold and a healthy diet. Under the guidance of a nutritionist or other healthcare professional, medical nutrition therapy can help you find a diet and supplementation routine to help a diabetic wound heal faster.
If you have questions about insurance coverage and medical nutrition, it’s best to reach out to your individual insurance provider for answers.
Your individualized medical nutrition plan may include closely monitoring carbohydrates and sugars, adding high-fiber fruits and vegetables, getting adequate vitamin C and zinc, and increasing your protein intake.
A high-protein diet is crucial for wound healing, because your body needs protein to produce more collagen for wound healing. That’s why some doctors may recommend medical-grade collagen supplements - so you can directly boost your body’s collagen levels.
When it comes to supplements, it’s important that you listen to the recommendations of your doctor or ask your doctor before taking a new one, as not all the options are created equal.
For example, medical-grade collagen is made by different standards than common collagen you might find in a store. It is carefully tested and monitored by the FDA, and often only available from establishments that operate under a physician’s license.
In short, medical-grade collagen products, like the ones from ProT Gold, have proven safe for use in medical nutrition therapy. In fact, ProT Gold is trusted by thousands of medical facilities across the United States for use in daily nutrition and wound healing.
Armed with the answers to the questions: “does diabetes slow wound healing?” and “how can a diabetic wound heal faster?” you now have the knowledge to assist your body’s natural healing process.
With careful wound care, targeted nutrition, and high-quality collagen products, you might just be able to counteract or effectively slow down the impact of diabetes on wound healing.